Public finances are viable and under control

Photo /Vijesti/2018/08 kolovoz/2 kolovoza/sjednica/DSC_3215.jpg

The government on Thursday adopted a conclusion to reduce the number of agencies, institutes, funds, companies, institutions, foundations and other legal entities with public powers with the "aim of downsizing the state administration."

This refers to 54 entities that will be either disbanded or merged with ministries or other entities, including agencies with more than 600 employees and companies which have only two employees, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said.

"The aim is an efficient, speedy, simple and transparent public administration," Plenkovic underscored and added that after today's decision, the relevant ministries can take further steps to undertake the legal and other changes necessary.

"That will be a serious and quality reform that will lead to a downsizing of the state administration and entities with public powers to the benefit of Croatian citizens and it also will lead to certain financial savings," the prime minister said.

The government adopted priorities for activities in European Union institutions during Austria's chairmanship of the Council of the EU.

Foreign Minister Marija Pejcinovic Buric said that as far as security is concerned, Croatia's accession to the Schengen Area was a priority considering its long external border. She added that economic development and prosperity was also an important issue for the government as are the prospects of Southeast Europe, that is, the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina and other countries in the neighbourhood.

The government endorsed an interim report on the progamme of activities and special fire protection measures in 2018.

The government on Thursday sent a new agriculture bill to parliament and adopted an aid programme to restore the production potential of the cattle breeding sector.

The new agriculture bill aims to ensure sustainable development of agriculture and general food safety, preserve natural agriculture resources, increase competitiveness, and strengthen the social, economic and ecological role of agriculture, Agriculture Minister Tomislav Tolusic said.

"Agriculture is defined as a strategic branch of the Croatian economy and as such is an integral part of development strategies in order to ensure sustainable development of agriculture and its economic, ecological and social role, as well as goals and a framework for its implementation," the minister said.

The new bill regulates the implementation of 12 new European Union directives that were not included in the 2015 law. This will ensure further consistency in implementing measures from the directives adopted as part of the latest reform of the Common Agricultural Policy and their amendments.

The bill defines, among other things, agricultural policy and rural development measures, direct aid measures and market regulation. It introduces international food standards and codes of good practice to protect consumer health and promote fair practices in food trade.

Based on this bill, the government will adopt a plan for prevention and reduction of food waste.

The government also adopted an aid programme to restore the production potential of the cattle breeding sector for the 2018-2020 period.

Tolusic said that milk and beef producers had been seriously damaged in the last two years because of an outbreak of an infectious disease that seriously affected their production potential. As a result, they had raised fewer breeding calves, which, coupled with the already existing disruptions on the dairy market, made their position more difficult.

In 2016 and 2017, Croatia was the only EU country to preventively vaccinate its cattle against lumpy skin disease, thanks to which this disease did not appear in Croatia. However, the vaccine was rather aggressive and led to large losses in milk production, as a result of which the government supported milk producers with HRK 40 million.

"We have negotiated with the European Commission and have been granted permission to provide aid from the national budget over the next three years to stimulate the cattle breeding sector. HRK 65 million per year was approved, or HRK 195 million for the three years, which has been ensured in the Agriculture Ministry budget," Tolusic said.

The Croatian government on Thursday increased this year's quotas for the employment of foreign workers by 3,269 and amended its previous decision, allowing hiring in the public service and state administration sectors for jobs involving EU funds.

The government increased the hiring quota for foreigners in the construction sector by 985, in the tourism sector by 270, the transport sector by 650, the food industry by 508, and the the agriculture and forestry sectors by 747.

Labour and Pension System Minister Marko Pavic said Croatia was seeing a record-breaking decline in the unemployment rate and a high employment rate.

Although the government advocates domestic labour and has already adopted a series of measures to that effect, there is still imbalance between supply and demand, which is why the government has decided to increase the hiring quota for foreign nationals, Pavic said.

"Currently there are 14,417 vacancies at the Employment Service that we cannot fill," the minister said.

The government also approved the hiring of people in public service and state administration to work on the management, control and use of EU funds.

The Croatian government on Thursday decided to introduce, as of 2019, a higher tourist tax in the peek season, raising tourist taxes, paid per person per night, in all accommodation facilities except camping sites by approximately 25%.

"Even with the proposed increase, Croatia still has the lowest tourist tax of all its peers," Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli said.

Under the government's decision, the tourist tax should go up 25% in all accommodation units except camping sites, from HRK 8 to HRK 10 per person per night. 

Tourist taxes range, for example, between EUR 0.45 and EUR 2.50 per day in Spain, between EUR 0.20 and EUR 7 in Italy, between EUR 1 and EUR 2 in Portugal, between EUR 0.15 and EUR 3 in Austria, between EUR 0.50 and EUR 4 in Greece, and EUR 2.5 in Slovenia.

In Croatia in 2019, tourist tax at campsites should remain HRK 8 per person per night, while in other accommodation units it will go up.

Last year the Croatian National Tourism Board collected HRK 464 million in tourist taxes.

The government on Thursday instructed the Public Administration Ministry and the Ministry of the Interior to verify the number and authenticity of signatures collected by the "Truth about the Istanbul Convention" initiative and the "People Decide" initiative and to check if the signatures for the petition against the Convention were collected in line with the law.

The "People Decide" civic initiative has submitted lists with 405,342 signatures seeking a referendum on electoral changes and another 407,469 signatures for a referendum question that would propose stripping national minority representatives of the right to decide on government formation and the state budget.

The "Truth About the Istanbul Convention" initiative has submitted 377,635 signatures to annul the ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on the prevention of violence against women and domestic violence, known as the Istanbul Convention.

The signatures for the two referenda were collected in May. Organisers had to collect the signatures of at least 10% of the total number of eligible voters, namely 374,740.

After the signatures are verified, the parliamentary Committee on the Constitution, Standing Orders and Political System is expected to decide whether the referendum questions need to be sent to the Constitutional Court to decide whether the questions are in line with the law.

Text: Hina